Nice n Soft – Conveying Your Soft Skills

There’s no question that one’s skills, experience and qualifications should be the primary consideration by an employer when selecting a candidate for hiring.  But one of the most important skill sets any applicant can bring to a job is far less recognizable from interviewing alone.  The qualities one brings for being able to deal with others – to play nice in a group setting, getting along well with co-workers, being an effective member of a team, maintaining appropriate communication with leaders, subordinates and management, etc. – all are part of the soft skills you bring to a job.
Yeah, you’re thinking this is basic stuff.  But now as competition for all positions heats up – entry level to executive – your soft skills matter and will impact on your being hired or not!  Sure, you’ve got to be able to generate code, analyze metrics, write well, enter accurate data, sell, market, read and follow instructions. But those hard skills only tell part of the story.  So how can you convey the quality of your soft skills in interviewing and job search materials?
Well, the proof will invariably be the behavior you demonstrate and how well you present yourself, but the language and attention you use to describe how much importance you place on appropriate work behaviors has to be convincing.
Be prepared to provide anecdotal evidence of your use of soft skills on the job.  Some examples that can be used both orally and in your documents include:

  • Sensitive to issues of privacy and confidentiality.
  • Cooperative team member willing to take on new challenges with minimal supervision.
  • Ability to maintain effective, polite, professional communication with all levels of staff, management, internal and external personnel, even under stressful circumstances.
  • Display an attitude of gratitude toward co-workers and team members and giving credit where it is due.
  • Consistently punctual and prompt with excellent time management skills.
  • Maintains a positive outlook and demeanor under stressful conditions.

Words like open minded, cooperative, and positive convey a good team ethic as well.
If you’re not able to site examples from a work environment, choose an appropriate experience from your personal life, like as a volunteer for a charity, coaching a kids’ sports team. There are also the anecdotal tidbits you can provide about how you helped a co-worker get through a tough day by taking on additional tasks, or when you took on extra work without being asked after a coworker got sick.  Asking others on the job if you can assist them can go a long way to improving the atmosphere in the office.  Relating the kind of brief story that portrays your work commitment and support/caring for others while maintaining your effectiveness in your job can only be perceived as a positive contribution to the workplace.
Demonstrating a commitment to helping others, being polite, showing up on time, and smiling (appropriately of course) from the very beginning of your interactions with perspective employers and their subordinate staff go a long way to conveying your soft-skills side, and that can make all the difference in whether or not you get the job.
Oh, and using “Please” and “Thank you” in your everyday communication isn’t a bad thing either.  And don’t forget that Thank You note!  😉
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